As Our Generation Uses Their Phones More And More, Has It Made Us Bad Parents?
The feeling of panic spread over me as I checked my bag, my back pocket and realised to my dismay I had left my phone at home. It would be pointless going back and we weren’t going to be long. I would be okay, then the thoughts started racing, I had recently uploaded to Instagram what if someone had said something? I needed to tweet out a blog post, would anyone look? Has my Facebook page had any new likes? I was going to be gone for no more than an hour yet I felt lost, I began to worry that because of not being able to check for this one hour my whole blog would come down around me and I would miss something crucial happening in the world of social media. What this would be I have no idea, but it was a worry. What if my work had emailed an important update? As I work part time I rely on emails in being kept in the loop. What if Elijah does something adorable how can I take a photo. Will I miss an amazing Instagram worthy photo, the one of Elijah probably eating a sandwich in Morrisons. I didn’t think it would break the internet, but how would I know?
This got me thinking am I addicted to my phone? It is the first thing I look at when I wake up, each social media account, checked, updated and posted on. It is the last thing I do before I go to bed. Then all throughout the day as well. When enjoying days out, it is all about getting the best photo of the day to put on social media. Also do not forget to take in the running commentary to a handful of friends on Whatt’s App about what we are doing, seeing, eating etc. Have we lost perspective about what is important now? Surely spending time as a family should be enough? I take a standard evening, after Elijah has gone to bed. This is our time now as a couple we can reconnect, talk and enjoy each other’s company right? Wrong, generally we will both tend to sit on our phones ignoring one another, until the other finds something humorous to show the other one. Normally a cat in a jumper. I spend nights planning on what to post where and when. Sometimes we will both put our phones away and spend some actual time talking to each other, but when did it become a chore to do so? That to put your phone down for a few hours so you can connect with your partner, causes a rift as the other one wants to read Sky Sports all night.
My Nan regularly says how she doesn’t understand phones today, and finds it amazing when I shop online, or the fact I have a blog. We could argue that her generation didn’t have these distractions, there were no phones, no internet which meant no social media and only 2 channels on the TV! I think of all the times I am on my phone and Elijah comes running up to me because I am not paying attention to him. Or the times I have got in a mood with him because he didn’t pose for the Instagram photo in the way I wanted. Or that he is having a tantrum as I am scrolling through Twitter, and I am annoyed I have to look away. I regularly check my phone even if we are going to town for a couple of hours. It is always on hand to connect with the social media world, or post photos. But how much time am I actually ‘spending’ with Elijah when I am on my phone? What am I missing? I don’t want him to grow up and feel like I was absent, I want him to remember me giving him my full attention.
For those two hours my sole focus was Elijah and do you know what I learnt? How much he must crave this. Normally he can be a bit temperamental when I take him around town. Especially because I had confined him to the pram as had lots of errands to run. But without my phone being there I couldn’t check it. So my attention was all on him. He didn’t even kick off once. I felt so guilty when we got home and I ran towards my phone. It has taught me; we really do need to switch off more. After all, how long to we have with them wanting our attention, our hugs before they are off with mobiles of their own? Before they are desperate to update their Instagram accounts?
It led to me asking myself a lot of questions, am I on my phone too much? Yes. Am I missing out as I am too busy on social media? Yes. Are there too many distractions today for us as parents? Hell yes. I started noticing it more and more. Mums and Dads stuck to their phones on days out, am I guilty of this? Yes. For checking Facebook on the bus when Elijah wanted to play? Yes. For making him pose for millions of photos? YES! It wasn’t just me, my partner also is guilty of this, as is I think every parent now a day. Sometimes it is invaluable, when Elijah was in NICU, and having his OP in Great Ormond Street we relied on being able to post updates to all our friends and family, but when does it become a hindrance rather than a useful tool?
However, slowly and surely there is a small movement of those on social media who have a large following, who are beginning to switch off. Even if it is for a trip to the park, at least you know that you paid your full attention to your child with no distractions. As we live in a more technological age, with more gadgets, and phones being able to do so much more, it leads me to ask. This time in 5- 10 years will we even be able to switch off at all? If we don’t what does this mean for our children? Our children’s children? How as parents do we manage this for when they become of an age where they want a phone? How do we as parents control the usage? Elijah at the age of two can use my laptop and take a selfie, is this wrong? Will we ever be able to just disconnect?
I personally do not think we can anymore, there really is so much going on and in small doses this is perfect escapism from having a teething toddler. But when is it too much? Probably when you nip to town and have a full blown panic attack you left your phone at home, and you feel that you are completely lost! So, I implore you to try it this week, leave your phone at home and get back into the real world with your child! I was surprised at what it taught me, especially about myself!